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Forms of Being

Forms of Being, was Ganter’s third solo exhibition at Glasgow Print Studio (GPS) in 2010. It was Ganter's most figurative series of work to date, continuing the model-making and photographing of the models established for the series, Sets that had been exhibited in London at the Hart Gallery. John MacKechnie, Director of GPS, said in his introduction to the catalogue, "Using multiple plates, and every conceivable etching technique, from drypoint and hard ground, through soft ground, aquatint and photographic techniques, her etchings are considered and hard won."

Forms of Being I, photo-etching, soft-ground etching and aquatint, 121 X 81cm

A series of large photo-etchings called Forms of Being provide the title for this exhibition of new work. They show one or two forms defined by light and shadow, in shallow spaces, the wall behind them parallel with the picture plane.  Through them, I take an oblique look at the human condition within an urban environment.  


I want to provide the spectator with a glimpse of something real but unidentifiable: to create a presence of something or someone rather than a description. The ‘figures’ are anonymous stand-ins for people. While I evoke architecture, it is drawn with thin struts in space rather than built. Both are created from material in my studio, (paper, clay, balsa wood), to photograph and then deconstruct.


The images are digitally transformed to bitmaps to be etched into steel plates and printed. While my work with camera and computer remains at a distance from me, hermetically sealed in their respective boxes, the etchings involve my hands and whole body in their making. The rich steel surfaces mould the prints and bear witness to my own intervention and crafting of the image.  They have a physical presence but offer no explanation of the reality in which the photographed forms exist.


In other works I juxtapose abstract blocks of tone and colour printed from deeply etched cross-hatchings and rough aquatints with digitally printed photographs. The spray of  the inkjet printer applies the ink so thinly it is one with the original surface of the paper.  The etched surfaces demand that the paper moulds its shape to themselves so that the lines, pits and troughs of ink stand proud of the picture plane: they insist on the print as an object in our space and block the view of the photograph itself so that it is always distant in comparison and what you see of it is emphatically my selection from the subject. 


The slow crafting of photo-etching is in direct opposition to conventional, snapshot, photography. In contradiction to Roland Barthes’ definition of photographs as a ‘readymade’ trace of the world, I only came to use photography once I could make the subject for the camera.  Barthes’ is the more conventional understanding of an invisible medium that the spectator passes through immediately to access the photograph’s subject. My work hijacks this process, using it to ensure that the viewer will search for a subject matter, but at the same time barring their way with the obvious crafting of the etched surfaces.  


These works have, I hope, a presence of something living.  That they are, at some stage, captured photographically, enhances their reality; the ambiguities of place and scale, and ultimately of medium, providing space for the viewers’ own interpretations.



Jo Ganter

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